Who? have ever believed that Bryan Singer? long, languid cinematic love-letter to his beloved Man of Steel would be roundly whupped at box office by the third entryin the franchise he left behind, X MEN 3 ?THE LAST STAND. But lo it came to pass that the fanboys wailed about X MEN and the public, in their peculiar wisdom, stayed away from SUPERMAN RETURNS in their droves. And I? convinced they stayed away not because SUPERMAN RETURNS is a bad movie – it has it? faults, obviously, but it? patently a well-crafted, thoughtful superhero movie ?no, they stayed away because in the cold, post 9/11 world of 2006, Superman just seems a bit of a na? conceit, a handy balm to the world? ills and one which the American public at least can? quite let itself stomach at the moment. It? telling that the one sequence which shows Superman in action around the world sees him tackling big fires and natural disasters. He? not shown pitching up against the forces of Al Quada or dismantling Iranian nuclear weapons. He doesn? even take on Britain? binge-drinking hellcats. It? as if Singer has decided that there are some fish too big even for Superman to fry ?and in some ways it leaves him with an awkward, emasculated movie starring a character the public can? easily believe in any more. All this may account for why Singer opted to make a more intense, introverted movie, away from the bang and bluster of all those other men-in-tights. Damagingly, the film is low on genuine spectacle (there? just an exciting plane rescue and the peculiar all-at-sea finale to set the pulses of FX fans racing) and high on emotion and eulogising. Numerous close-ups on the big red ??on our hero? chest leave us in no doubt that Singer is totally in awe of Superman and the final sequence of an injured Superman laid up in hospital whilst the fevered population of Metropolis crowds around outside waiting for news, is positively Messianic.

SUPERMAN RETURNS is set some time after the events of SUPERMAN 2. superman has flown off into space to seek out the debris of his devastated planet. He comes back to find his adoptive home is still a mess but the people in his life have moved on. The love of his life, Lois Lane (Bosworth) has married someone else and there? a child of uncertain paternity in the family. Lex Luther? out of prison and planning a bizarre real estate scam. Business as usual for the Man of Steel ?there? even some pesky green kryptonite around for those familiar ??e lost my powers!?sequences.

Whatever your view of Singer? low-key approach to Superman, there? no denying that in Routh he? found quite possibly the only actor in the world who could have stepped so easily into the cape vacated by the late, much-missed Christopher Reeve. Routh? portrayal of Superman is, it has to be said, more Reeve than Routh but then Supes is a square-jawed character who doesn? really allow for much in the way of thespian histrionics. But Routh is a good enough actor to portray Superman? despair at the loss first of his beloved Lois and later his own super-powers. Routh? Clark Kent is less effective because we?e seen one too many bumbling Clark Kent? over the years to find the character remotely appealing any more. As a side-point, it? hard not to wonder why no-one makes any sort of connection between Clark Kent reappearing after a two year absence just as Superman does the same.

SUPERMAN RETURNS is a long, drawn-out affair and it only begins to wear out its welcome at the point it clearly should have ended and yet hangs on for one final attempt to tug at the heart-strings. There? much to enjoy in the extended running-time though; Spacey? Luther, although cast in a similar mould to Gene Hackman all those years ago, has an underlying brutality which is occasionally quite threatening but sadly Kate Bosworth falls flat on her face as Lois Lane, far too young and bland to convince as Superman? lost love. There? little chemistry between Bosworth and Routh and, despite a brave re-enactment of the old ?uperman takes Lois on a night flight?routine, their stuttering romance never?r?akes off.

Where now for Superman, in the light of the disappointing performance of SUPERMAN RETURNS? Well, a sequel? been greenlit and we?e promised a bit more of what we came for this time ?thrills, spills, action. As it stands SUPERMAN RETURNS is an engrossing, enjoyable experience but it never really gets us anywhere near the edge of our seats. Next time around maybe we?l see Superman do something really?uper.

THE DISC: The choice, again, is yours. A bare-bones single disc or a two-disc edition which boasts a long, multi-part three hours documentary of the making of the movie. But there? lots of stuff you just sense is being held back for an ultimate edition ?there? no commentary, for starters. Still, a nice enough edition to be going on with.


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